Noah’s ark replica ready for a flood of visitors

Craftsmen follow biblical blueprint to build Creation Museum attraction

Jul 13, 2016 by and

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United by a vision to portray a vivid biblical story, Anabaptist architects, engineers, craftsmen and carpenters from many communities played a key role in the Ark Encounter project, which opened July 7 near the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky.

The replica of Noah’s ark, shown here on May 16, is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, based on the cubit measurements God gave Noah in Genesis. It is the centerpiece of a $150 million theme park being developed by the Creation Museum in Kentucky. — Answers in Genesis

The replica of Noah’s ark, shown here on May 16, is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, based on the cubit measurements God gave Noah in Genesis. It is the centerpiece of a $150 million theme park being developed by the Creation Museum in Kentucky. — Answers in Genesis

More than 100 workers from Amish, Mennonite and other Anabaptist traditions — about one-third of the workforce at times — applied their skills with heavy timber to help complete the full-scale replica, which can accommodate 10,000 people at one time. Answers in Genesis developed the “themed park” on 800 acres near Williamstown, Ky., 40 miles south of Cincinnati.

“I don’t know how Noah did it, but I knew that to build a structure like this in a short time we had to have people to blend together and do it in a short time,” said lead architect LeRoy Troyer, a Mennonite long known for major construction projects including Nazareth Village in Israel and Global Discovery Center in Americus, Ga., home of Habitat for Humanity, and his work for Habit and the Fuller Center for Housing.

“It was probably easiest to do that within the Amish community because of the work ethic and the faith. There was a common vision and a common mission. People could buy into that. It wasn’t just a matter of putting wood together. . . . The purpose behind it was to be able to share basically God’s plan of salvation. God commanded Noah to build the ark, and that was his plan of salvation to save mankind.”

When Answers in Genesis invited Troyer to discuss the Ark Encounter in 2009, he convinced the group to build the ark of wood, taking them to Elkhart County, Ind., to tour the giant American Countryside barn and the Davis Mercantile in Shipshewana.

Construction workers prepare to raise timber logs used for structural support at the center of the Ark Encounter. — Answers in Genesis

Construction workers prepare to raise timber logs used for structural support at the center of the Ark Encounter. — Answers in Genesis

“It should be built of all wood because that’s how Noah did it,” Troyer said. “I said, ‘I know people that we can bring in to build it.’ In the Amish community, I knew some barn-builders who worked with heavy timber. It was a large-scale project, and we had to do it in a short time period. We needed a lot of carpenters.”

Lacking sufficient land at the Creation Museum, Answers in Genesis assembled the 800 acres at Williamstown for the Ark Encounter, which includes a 1,710-seat restaurant and a 4,000-car parking lot. Plans call for a replica Tower of Babel on the site as well as a depiction of the plagues of Egypt and perhaps a first-century village and a section of Jerusalem.

After years of planning and months of site preparation, the first timbers were installed on June 15, 2015. Anabaptist workers have come from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Georgia. The park opened July 7. Developers expect up to 2 million visitors the first year.

Back to the Scriptures

Don Landis, chair of the Answers in Genesis board, said his own roots are deep in the Mennonite tradition, which resonates with the Creation Museum’s emphasis on Scripture.

“My rich heritage, loving the Bible and loving the Lord Jesus, was founded in a Bible-believing Mennonite church,” he said. “The whole church today is very influenced by the Anabaptists.”

Landis was raised in East Swamp Mennonite Church, Quakertown, Pa., and found the Lord at Camp Men-O-Lan when he was 11. He was ordained in 1967.

Landis graduated from Moody Bible Institute and worked in Campus Life Youth for Christ for six years before he started the independent Rocky Mountain Ministries and opened a youth camp in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he has pastored an independent Bible church for more than 40 years. He met Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham 22 years ago.

Landis, who will take students from his Jackson Hole Bible College on a field trip to visit the Ark this year, says the Ark Encounter reflects Radical Reformation belief that all of life, not only salvation theology, must be based on the Bible.

“If we’re going back to the Scriptures, we’d be better go back to the Scriptures in everything,” he said.

3.3 million board feet

Plans to build the ark used the Egyptian cubit, 20.4 inches, resulting in a ship that is 510 feet long and 85 feet wide, similar to the ratios of modern shipbuilding. The structure is designed to sustain a wind force of 120 mph.

The biblical story describes gopher wood or cedar in the ark’s construction, but research showed that cedar is not long-lasting. The replica is clad with boards from radiata pine trees grown in New Zealand from seeds imported from California in the 1860s.

The ark is considered the largest timber-framed structure in the world. Building codes required the floor to be at least five inches thick. The largest logs, Douglas fir or Engelmann spruce, are 2 to 3 feet in diameter, and square timbers are 20 by 20 inches. The construction includes more than a half-million 6-inch steel screws and 3.3 million board feet of wood.

Some 30 professionals in The Troyer Group architectural firm of Mishawaka, Ind., were involved in the Ark Encounter, including LeRoy Troyer’s son Ron Troyer, who oversaw mechanical engineering, and Jason Hickle, who oversaw structural engineering. Others worked on site preparation, traffic studies, drafting, transportation, parking and drainage. Todd Geer, senior vice present, was construction manager.

“I worked with all these to do an oversight and to be the team leader for all of them,” LeRoy Troyer said. “I bring people to work in harmony and do teambuilding. I’ve had considerable experience in management and organization. I have a passion to work at building peace and good will among all people.”

At Ark Encounter, a ‘biblical worldview’ on display

By Emily McFarlan Miller
Religion News Service

WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. — Ken Ham sees a parallel between the time of Noah in the Book of Genesis and today’s growing secularization of American culture.

So perhaps it makes sense that Ham’s Christian apologetics ministry, Answers in Genesis, has built an ark 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high, based on the cubit measurements God gave Noah in the biblical flood account.

But while only eight people in Noah’s family climbed aboard the biblical ark, when the rain began to fall, July 5 as if on cue, more than 8,000 people got a first look inside the full-scale replica at the Ark Encounter.

The ark and 800-acre theme park officially opened to the public July 7 in northern Kentucky, 45 minutes from Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum.

Ham called the Ark Encounter’s opening “a historic event in Christendom” at the ribbon-cutting and preview and predicted it would become “one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era of history.”

The park’s centerpiece features exhibits explaining Answers in Genesis’ views of the biblical flood account and life-size figures depicting what life on the ark might have been like for Noah and his family.

The park also features a two-story restaurant, aerial zipline cables and the Ararat Ridge Zoo with goats, ponies, emus and more animals.

The next phase of park construction likely will include a walled city “that takes you back to Noah’s day” with shops, restaurants and street performers that visitors will walk through as they approach the ark, said Michael Zovath, chief action officer for Answers in Genesis and project director for the Ark Encounter.

But the Ark Encounter is “not just for entertainment,” said Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis.

It’s to “proclaim God’s word and the gospel,” he said. It’s meant to show — in keeping with Answers in Genesis’ ministry, focused on issues such as creation, evolution, science and the age of the Earth — that the biblical flood account is historic and the Bible is true in regard to history and science.

“When people say, ‘What are you really doing here? What statement are you making?,’ well, you know, in a world that we see becoming very secularized before our eyes, it’s really time for Christians to do something of this size, of this quality, that competes with the Disneys and the Universals to get a message to the world,” he said.

A young Earth

That’s a mission and an interpretation of Scripture that the park’s first visitors celebrated at the preview event, but it’s also a retelling critics call inaccurate.

“We share with the people at the Ark Encounter a belief in the Bible, but Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham do not speak for all Christians,” said Deborah Haarsma, president of BioLogos, a Christian ministry promoting an evolutionary understanding of creation.

Answers in Genesis advocates “young-Earth creationism” — which says the Earth is about 6,000 years old, humans once lived alongside dinosaurs and the six-day creation and flood accounts in Genesis are literally, historically true.

That reading of Genesis is important because, Ham said, “When you take away the foundation of the absolute authority of the word of God, then anything goes.”

On the ark’s third deck, a sign in an exhibit about the ice age points out that creationists and evolutionists look at the same evidence and draw different conclusions. The sign explains the difference between “the evolutionary worldview” and “the biblical worldview.”

But others say there’s more than one biblical worldview.

“We see the natural world as God’s creation, so we can celebrate the Big Bang and evolution as discoveries about how God created this world,” Haarsma said.

Ham points to anecdotes of people turning to faith after confronting the evidence from Answers in Genesis. But, he said, even if Ark Encounter visitors “don’t share our biblical view, they can’t help but be impressed by the structure, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail in the world-class exhibits inside. And — who knows? — maybe they’ll be challenged to even talk about the Bible as we do.”

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